Head Coach Jason Garrett believes the success of his team’s running game depends on everybody involved.
The running back needs to find the right hole quickly and attack it. The wide receivers and the tight ends must handle their given assignments. And, of course, the offensive line needs to work as a cohesive unit.
The Cowboys line is often referred to as the best in football because of the consistent play of guys like Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zach Martin and how they helped DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott to rushing titles in 2014 and 2016.
In last week’s game against the Denver Broncos, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line looked anything but superior.
In a game in which the Cowboys were defeated by 25 points, they ran the ball 14 times for 40 yards. Their longest run of the game was an 11-yard scamper by quarterback Dak Prescott.
Ezekiel Elliott, who was coming off of a season-opener against the tough Giants defense in which he gained 104 yards on the ground, was held in check, the Broncos held the mighty Elliot to eight yards on nine carries. At one point in the third quarter Sunday, Elliott’s stats showed that he had no positive yardage.
Elliot spoke about the team’s frustration but credited Denver for their outstanding play.
“We just couldn’t get any movement on the ball and establish the running game,” he said. “(The Broncos) are built for third down and getting up and rushing the passer, and they did a good job playing to their strength today.”
Dallas’ effort on Sunday was their second-worst rushing performance since 2014. In their 2015 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys managed 31 yards in 14 attempts.
Some will point to the 25-point deficit as a reason why Elliot only carried the ball nine times. Often times, when teams fall behind by margins that wide, they will deviate from their game-plan and become very pass-happy in an attempt to get back into the game quickly.
Based on recent history, there is no reason to believe the Cowboys entered the Denver game with anything but a plan of action that called for balance. They should have stuck with that plan longer and given Elliot more opportunities, especially since they were still in the game until about midway through the third quarter.
Asking Dak Prescott to put the ball in the air 50 times, as they did last Sunday, is not in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys.
Jason Garrett spoke about his team’s lack of success moving the ball against the Broncos defense.
“We had some success outside, but we really need to have some success throwing the ball to get them out of that defense,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “We were not able to do that on a consistent basis (and) third downs limited just the number of plays that we had.”
The Cowboys square off against the Arizona Cardinals tonight on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
The Cardinals are allowing an average of 79 yards a game on the ground in their first two games, but their first two opponents, the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts, do not possess running games anywhere near as powerful as the one Dallas has.
Whether Arizona has similar success tonight will be interesting to see.
The Cowboys like to zone block and leave Elliott a lane to shoot through or cutback. The Broncos played very disciplined on defense and were very gap-conscious, making sure to hold their positions well. They didn’t allow the gaps to open. The Broncos also believe strongly in their corners and safeties, and they were able to match up with the Cowboys receivers without much help. This allowed them to throw as many bodies as possible at the line of scrimmage.
The Cardinals possess similar elements in their secondary in Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson and rising star Tyrann Mathieu. The presence of these two will give Arizona an opportunity to crowd the line of scrimmage like the Broncos did. However, whether their front seven will hold up will ultimately be the deciding factor.
[Featured Image by Brian Bahr/Getty Images]